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A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review}

A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review} | CosmosMariners.com

Part travelogue, part guidebook, and part pictorial, A Geek in China: Discovering the Land of Alibaba, Bullet Trains, and Dimsum is Matthew B. Christensen's love letter to this vast Asian nation.

While I love travel guides of all kinds (what's not to love about the winning combo of books + travel?!), there are some that really capture my imagination: ones with stunning pictures, personal anecdotes, and actionable advice for delving into the culture. As soon as I pulled A Geek in China out of the box, I was stunned--the full color cover is eye-catching and covered in pictures. It's completely different than the covers of Fodor's, Rick Steves, and Lonely Planet, and it pops out of my collection of travel guides with its vibrant colors.

What I Think Book Review: Debby Irving's Waking Up White

Summary (from the back of the book): 
For twenty-five years, Debby Irving sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships. As a colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people she dearly wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator, she didn't understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing. Then, in 2009, one 'aha!' moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan.

When I picked up this book, I have to admit that I came at it with prejudice (which is kind of funny considering that the whole book is about not being prejudiced!). Why was this? 

What I Think: A Review of Joanna Clapps Herman's No Longer and Not Yet

Joanna Clapps Herman No Longer and Not Yet

While I was on vacation, I got some much needed reading in. I'm a reader through and through, and when I don't get to snuggle up with a book, I start to feel as if my brain is atrophying.

I like books that make me think and make me feel. I like books that make me want to know the characters and visit where they live.

Sadly, I don't come across books like that as often as you'd think, so when I do, it's like a fresh breeze. 

Joanna Clapps Herman's book (novel? short story collection?), No Longer and Not Yet, was one of these books, and I enjoyed reading it immensely.

What I Think: A Review of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go

Aside from having one of the best names in contemporary British Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro is an unforgettable writer. I've read two of this books, and both were thought-provoking and original.

The book that I've got in my cross-hairs today is Never Let Me Go. It's not a new book, but I haven't run into too many people who've read it, which really is a shame.

What I Think: A Review of Marisha Pessl's Night Film

marisha pessl night film book review

I was first introduced to Marisha Pessl when I was wandering the aisles of Blue Bicycle Books in downtown Charleston (if you're ever in town, definitely stop by and support a local bookseller!). I found her debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which has nothing to do with science and everything to do with awesomeness. Her writing was snappy, her metaphors were original, the characters were quirky but believable and it was chock-a-block full of literary metaphors. 

Add in the fact that there was a murder mystery at the heart of it, and I was sold.

What I Think Book Review: Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography

If you've ever wondered why London is so consistently influential, then you need to first understand its history. Though it is anything but a quick read, Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography provides an incredible and sweeping look at London's long history that will keep you reading despite the seemingly overwhelming 900+ pages.

I've long been a fan of Ackroyd (his fiction is just as good as his non-fiction offerings), and I was delighted when I received this book for Christmas from my brother-in-law. (Thanks, Lyle!) At that time, I knew I was going to be in London (where I am now), so I figured it would be the perfect way for me to prepare for my upcoming field trip. 

Ackroyd doesn't just give the reader a dry review of London's past. Instead (and the title should be a clue here), he approaches the history as if London were a person, which makes for a much more interactive reading experience. He doesn't write in perfect chronological order, though the book does begin with the Stone Age inhabitants and ends with modern London. He may begin a chapter with a description of 17th century church bells, and then bring the sounds of London forward to more recent times. It is a unique approach--one that I've never encountered before--but it works. There were a few times when I was reading that I was so struck by the intricate weaving of past and present in the book that I wondered how in the world Ackroyd kept all of this information straight in his head while writing. 

All aspects of London's past are covered: the Roman Lundinium, the Anglo-Saxon Ludinwic, the origins of Cockney English, the sights and smells of Victorian London, and the terror and effects of World War II. He also includes sketches, paintings, photos and carvings to illustrate each period of time. 

I adore London, and I thought I was well-informed about its history, but after reading this book, I was surprised at how little I'd actually known. For any history-lovers or for an Angolophile, this book should be a must-read.